30 April 2018

Notes On April Viewing 2018


The Big Knife
It’s like Sweet Smell of Success but it’s Rod Steiger and Jack Palance yelling at each other. Often in a way that sounds like they should just fuck it out.
A Pure Formality
It’s certainly one of the more interesting neonoir that I’ve seen. It’s easy to see why Polanski was cast as the cop but Depardieu puts in a lot of work as the suspect. It’s quite the dance to see Depardieu take the steps of yeah probably guilty to oh totally guilty to wait maybe he’s really an amnesiac to oh yeah writers are deeply weird people to what we get at the end. The filmmaking was a lot more interesting than the story in many ways but I’m glad that I finally saw it.
Fireworks Wednesday (Chaharshanbe Suri)
My first Asghar Farhadi film so it was great to check one out finally. The maid played by Taraneh Alidoosti was the perfect intermediary between these couples. So while I expected the usual family drama what it became through her eyes was something fresher. The outsider who learns or deduces the secrets of others is one of my favorite tropes so it was fun to see it play out here.
Elle
How close of cousins are intimacy and trauma? Or are they much closer? What about love and betrayal? What are the intimacies of betrayal? You’ve got characters here doing a lot of this at once. How do you reconcile all these differing sides of people? This is why Huppert is so fascinating: she’s well aware of what she’s doing and then sometimes not even if it’s an intuitive hunch. She’s the character through whom you see these parallels and the duality of people is the film’s big theme. I thought it worked really well. The rape scene - and flashbacks - are hardly as grimdark as I’d feared. They hit Huppert like a very intrusive thought train so content warning indeed but we’re not talking torture porn. What this says about her trauma and how it informs her sexuality is something else but there I think the film handles it subtly. But I’m not about to praise the film without offering anyone a little warning. Cos while it’s Verhoeven by way of Chabrol it’s still Verhoeven. It’s not any worse than Black Book let me say. So if you’ve seen that one you may be good to go.
Blade Runner 2049
The film’s problem in a nutshell: Deckard looks at “Rachel” in that scene where Wallace tempts him and says in angry dismissal “Her eyes were green.” By the way, we could have been spared Leto if he’d been eliminated in favor of Sylvia Hoeks as Luv as the one going after Deckard. It’d have made more sense, gave her character a lot more motivation, and spared us some truly tired visionary genius schtick.
Jem and the Holograms
The guy who wrote this needs to go back to film school and also get several drinks thrown at him. The actors try - they try - but the writing is the worst offense. So I’m not surprised the film failed. Oh, and all the goddam YouTube videos! But on top of that now we’ll never see more of Kesha as Pizzazz so thanks a lot.
Married To The Mob
The best parts: Michelle Pfeiffer, the scene where Dean Stockwell recalls how he recognizes Matthew Modine, and Modine’s cat feeding contraption. Oh, and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Mimosas
One of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. It’s almost like the Malick version of Mad Max Fury Road but even better. It’s got wide, silent vistas - seriously, the light and space captured as the cars move through the desert is breathtaking - and an assured poetry of place and characterization that feels like a small miracle. I go to a very serene place just thinking about this movie.
Ponette
This just might be the perfect Easter movie. Also it’s kinda a documentary about children being terrible to each other but also weird anyway cos they’re all just six years old. Kids wondering about death and Jesus can’t help but be morbid at times tho. The acting feels very untutored - I can’t imagine how many takes were needed - so it stays rather unpredictable. The last scene is very Spirit of the Beehive so if you loved Erice’s film there’s a great chance you’ll find this Ponette as intriguing and moving.
Beyonce at Coachella
A pyramid full of musicians with dancers in front and then Beyonce in front of that. Busby Berkeley could only dream of this. And lord what a dream.
Lover For A Day (L’amant d’un jour)
Garrel leans on some bitches be cray storytelling unfortunately but the interrelations between the three main characters helped to distinguish it from Garrel’s usual tale of two lovers who implode.
In The Shadow Of Women (L'ombre des femmes)
This was enjoyable because the couple actually had decent chemistry. And the man’s side piece also had some personality. Also the wife had a side piece which made the story a lot more interesting than just the dude cheating. Also how great is it that they got back together because they hated the same guy?
Jealousy (La jalousie)
This works so well because you have to process Louis through his relationship with the woman as well as the young girl. And while he definitely gives off more of a cool uncle vibe than dad vibe he’s good with the girl. Also his real-life sister helps things feel a little more grounded. I think it’s better in general than some other Garrel because the dilemma with the daughter gives it some authenticity but also Garrel hits a good stride here with his son. Louis has to project an interiority here that rings true. This is definitely my favorite of recent Garrel.
Dirty Computer
If you’ve seen the music videos you know what to expect but this was so beautiful. And fun! There’s shout outs to Drive and Grimes music videos and Jodorowsky and Metropolis. It was really fun to see the music videos in their context here.
Valmont
People complain that Forman’s film lacks the bite of the Frears film but it’s more than adequate as a comedy of manners. I also like how it doesn’t have the malevolence of Dangerous Liaisons. All these characters have the foibles of real people which is really refreshing. If everyone on it acted liked it was Game of Thrones it’d be pretty exhausting. I mean, Annette Bening would totally own on Game of Thrones but that’s not who these characters are. As a fan of Amadeus and historical drama generally, I’m more than pleased.

05 January 2018

Music of 2017



My favorite music of 2017 part one (1-5) Syd FIN Delia Gonzalez HORSE FOLLOWS DARKNESS Drab Majesty THE DEMONSTRATION Tomberlin AT WEDDINGS Samantha Urbani HINTS & IMPLICATIONS


My favorite music of 2017 part two (6-10) THE HOLY CIRCLE Sally Dige HOLDING ON REAL HIGH INJURY Power Trip NIGHTMARE LOGIC

08 November 2017

What did I watch for Halloween this year?

As you can see, I watched a lot so I've kept it short for the most part.

Madhouse
Ridiculous but fun. The bad guy masquerading as a priest is one of my favorite tropes!

Blade Runner (Final Cut)
I started watching it distractedly as I checked my social media and slowly got pulled into it entirely.

Blacula
Scream Blacula Scream
In both films, Blacula fights dudes with his bare hands. Just throws them around like nothing. It was lots of fun.

Eve’s Bayou
I loved it! Great to see Samuel L. Jackson play suave too. Also the rare film where I cared about all the family members. One of the bets cast films that I’ve seen in awhile, too.

Sign O’ the Times
How do you make a movie out of one of the greatest records ever? You make it the most Prince in the ‘80s thing ever. Even more than Purple Rain if you can imagine that.

Manhunter
Did you think I was going to watch Silence of the Lambs? This was another one that I put on distractedly but then got drawn into.

I Am Not A Serial Killer
This was a cat and mouse thriller and it wasn’t bad. I’d rather it ended on a more ambiguous note even if the title is a bit of a mislead anyway.

The Eyes of My Mother
A horror film about intergenerational trauma.

Trouble Every Day
This is why your mama warns you about boys like Vincent Gallo!

Under The Shadow
A character study as much as a drama about a supernatural invader. It’s a very mysterious film.

Images
This movie does not hold back on strange men being terrifying!

The Blackcoat’s Daughter
This was a very effective supernatural thriller especially its sureness of tone as you’ve got three threads going in it before they converge in it final menace. I highly recommend it

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
This was not as gory or as terrifying as I’d expected. There’s a call out to Lifeforce that I appreciated. That really amused me.

Queen of the Damned
This was hardly on the level of a made-for-television movie let alone Interview With The Vampire. And there’s hardly any Aaliyah. She’s barely a major part of the plot - despite being the Queen of the fucking Dead of the motherfucking title. This was just dumb and not even fun at all.

The Void
There’s worse ways to rip off The Thing and The Beyond. At least it didn’t make it too boring!

The Fog
If you’ve worried about impending doom on the local level, this is the film for you! Carpenter captures the nocturnal atmosphere and explores the interpersonal dynamics quite well which is all you need to make it compelling. 

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
I loved it. And I cried at the end. Oh, and before the end. And towards the end of the second act. It was very emotional for me!

The Leopard Man
The classic Val Lewton atmosphere that you’d know from Cat People or I Walked With A Zombie. That’s pretty much all you need to enjoy this one. Which isn’t about man-leopards at all.

The Undying Monster
This was really neat! I had expected maybe a bargain basement detective plot but instead the movie had some cool technique.

Interview With The Vampire
I really had to go back to this after Queen of the Damned. It still holds up. It’s definitely the adaptation that did justice to the book which is why I think Anne Rice hated it so much at first. 

Goodnight Mommy
Anyone who wants kids needs to watch this movie first! Something I loved was how sympathy is elicited for the mom as much as the kids. I still can’t tell who was really the evil one.

Penelope
This won’t win any kudos for deconstructing the gaze but I needed something cute and pleasant as a distraction. Do you think the Pushing Daisies creative team loved this film?

Cat People (1982)
Schrader made the original’s subtext textual and added a layer of guilt over sexuality and temptation. And bondage. And furry incest, of course. And then he made Mishima! God, I have no clue about the ‘80s sometimes.

A Dark Song
It’s kinda like if Ben Wheatley had made The Babadook.

The Living Dead Girl
The passion of sisters is for death, said she. 

Raw
This is less like Trouble Every Day and more like Living Dead Girl meets Fat Girl. 

Blade Runner 2049
This wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t great. There was a lot where it could have been great but all the effort to be great comes across more strongly in the cinematography/mise-en-scene/set design. Which isn’t bad cos the original is so excellent is those areas but in this film every scene and space is treated in the exact same way. It feels very similar and nothing new is really shown beneath those spaces. And they’re beautiful spaces - that’s what I want in certain scifi films! - but they’re more impressive than the ostensible drama. They feel too distinct from each other is most cases - like two separate films. I really wanted the drama to feel more blended with it all. Which really stands out for the worse when Harrison Ford steps out in the last third of the film and is given nothing to do. You could remove him and it’d almost have been the same film except for the final fight of course. Which compared to the original was just nothing. It lacked all the tension and all the stakes. It just happened. A lot of the film just feels like a scene happens to get to the next part of the plot or to set up something later. A lot of it was missed opportunity, sorry. But I’m still glad I saw it.

Lorna the Exorcist
Actually a little sexy but still a Jess Franco so that means ridiculous sex with great atmosphere overall. There’s only one Lina Romay so there’s that. I’m just kinda amused how like Vampyros Lesbos you have a supernatural theme that Franco uses to create the atmosphere but parlays it into the sexiness.

Prince of Darkness
October isn’t complete until you’ve watched a Carpenter! So of course in 2017 the pick was from the apocalypse trilogy. I really liked this one for its gradual pace and less claustrophobic atmosphere. It’s very gothic which I hadn’t noticed before but I liked that too. It’s Carpenter at a more relaxed pace but still a favorite.

Little Sister
Just kinda cute but in contrast to Rachel Getting Married it was nice to watch a film about someone trying to help a family member for once.

Lips of Blood
I’m not a fan of the lead dude character but it’s still a good Jean Rollin film. His reunion with the mysterious woman is very touching and I have to say their plan to go to sea in a coffin together is quite romantic! Leave it to the French, I guess.

Medousa
Not as much of a horror film as I’d hoped but it’s low-key indie film vibe was charming. It’s not as much about Medusa as it’s about the mystery of the sudden statues but it’s not a bad story either. Definitely something you’d watch on a Sunday afternoon. Or as a double bill with Lips of Blood!

Suspiria
This was the new restoration from Synapse - and it was glorious!

Blood and Black Lace
My favorite Bava film. Beautiful and scary and just a perfect example of Bava’s style.

09 January 2017

Music of 2016

Angel Olsen, My Woman

Kristin Kontrol, X-Communicate

Julianna Barwick, Will

Mitski, Puberty 2

Nite Jewel, Liquid Cool

Suede, Night Music

Blood Orange, Freetown Sound

Sub Rosa, For This We Fought The Battle of Ages

Tegan and Sara, Love You to Death

Mary Lattimore, Music Inspired by Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur



31 October 2016

Notes On October Viewing 2016

High-Rise
It’s like Ben Wheatley directed a season of Mad Men.
 
The Last Man On Earth
Vincent Price as a feared killer of men who in turn ends at the same fate. I think what I loved most was the understated presentation of this biological apocalypse. The empty streets, the clear and warm sunshine full of nothing, and the weary narration of a man unaware of just how doomed he is.
 
Panic In The Year Zero
Ray Milland throwing punches and grabbing guns like a drunk Trump supporter. All the paranoia on display - a film made in 1962 by the way - was all the more eerily disquieting as it looked like the same could happen today.
 
Penda’s Fen
What struck me was the intellectual and dramatic subtlety presented in how a young adult molded their identity. I loved how they addressed the mythic element in national identity as well. All in 1973 - almost unthinkable today.

Carnival of Souls
I was not expecting this to be such a knock out. First, Criterion’s presentation is excellent. Definitely one of the best restorations that I’ve seen. Second, the film was an incredibly haunting experience. The setting, the music, the acting - it all meshed so perfectly. This was the perfect Halloween movie.
 
Spider Baby
Lots of fun - Virginia and Elizabeth were especially amusing. Another perfect Halloween movie. Forever in my mind on a double bill with Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Or with Grey Gardens. 
 
Secretary
I was surprised that it wasn’t entirely about kink but also as much about mental health. Self-harm, specifically. I appreciated how the movie handled those subjects sensitively enough. She’s really just trying to find peace.
 
Sombre
There’s a social context to which the film alludes - the kids screaming at the cinema (a self-reflexive gesture, obviously) and the ongoing Tour - and then there’s the personal context to which the film is more directly involved. The woman and the killer representing two degrees of alienation - from family and from society - that somehow complement each other in the film’s outlook. A dysfunctional relationship being the best means of representing it, apparently. As a serial killer film, it’s rather pointless but leave it to the French to use any genre at hand to discuss terrible relationships. And poorly use Bauhaus cos why the hell not? Alan Vega’s unsettling piece was used effectively at least.
 
Tenderness of the Wolves
This movie on the other hand was a more straightforward take on the community delusion that keeps a psychopath in business. 
 
Scream
I had never seen this one before so I was a little concerned at how it would play after twenty years. I’ve seen plenty of Joss Whedon so why not give Kevin Williamson a try? I thought it was pretty good especially since I’d seen so much else in its wake. Plus it was nice to see Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich in something besides The Craft. My favorite scene was the big reveal in the kitchen. Craven really has a flair for shooting maximum drama in small spaces. See also The People Under The Stairs for that.
 
Scream 2
I didn’t find its self-ironic stance entirely interesting especially as it kept trying to stay a few steps ahead of itself but it was still pretty entertaining. Mostly thanks to the actors who really kept a good handle on it all. I think I liked it even more than Scream cos this one was so over the top. You haven’t lived til you’ve seen Laurie Metcalf menacing people with a handgun.
 
Halloween
Having watched Scream really made me appreciate Carpenter’s original much more.
 
God Told Me To
Deliriously unhinged.
 
The Amityville Horror
The horror comedy classic. I thought Margot Kidder was great tho.

I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House
A very slow burn with lots of stillness, natural sound, and restrained aesthetics. This is more a story about the house than the people in it. Which is an interesting idea but it sucks out a lot of the human interest. I think they could have done more with the premise but I do appreciate how they let the audience add it all up.
 
Dracula’s Daughter
You can’t escape your fate.
 
Community (Season Six)
My Mad Fat Diary (Season One)
Babylon 5 (Season Two)

11 October 2016

Persons of Orison: Going to Church with Julianna Barwick

I had the recent pleasure of seeing Julianna Barwick last week perform live in a church in Lexington. I had a taste of the experience in September when she opened for Angel Olsen but it was all too brief. This evening, however, everything was perfect. (It was a smaller audience but it was no less thrilling.) The church was the ideal space. Its ambience and acoustics made it feel like sitting within one of her earlier records. The very sparse lighting and the later hour contributed to that effect. The two opening acts Robert Beatty and Mary Lattimore were no slouches, either. The concert itself was soft but loud. Almost like being wrapped within "Offing" from Nepenthe for fifty minutes. I couldn't tell one piece from another through the sonic haze and I didn't care. Crafting the aura from her keyboard fully ablaze, Barwick seemed more concerned with sustaining the mood. I for one was content within that spell as my mind drifted along. It was sustained beautifully. It was the perfect immersion into her world. The audience filed out in what seemed like a very mellow mood. Much mellower than I've seen in audiences in many years. It was truly wonderful and it felt so, so great to finally see her live after so many years loving her music.

03 January 2016

Music of 2015


Kamasi Washington, The Epic
Quite ambitious at a length of three hours with a full band of twelve players. It can be a somewhat dense listen given the average song length – seven to twelve minutes being the norm – but it possesses a corresponding sum of energy and invention. Energy and invention is pretty much the MO for jazz but here’s it’s especially engaging.

Tamaryn, Cranekiss
It’s something like a kiss. Definitely the warmest album of the year – and the one that I listened to most often in 2015. Swooning and sighing with an androgynous joy that I all too rarely get to hear especially when delivered so lushly and so directly. Just an astounding evolution in Tamaryn’s sound.

Wax Idols, American Tragic
A good complement to the Tamaryn record. Similar textures but here with a much darker hue. Both albums are equally glossy which really just makes them insinuate their sounds into your mind more easily. The singing here is even better – more confidence, loads of swagger, it’s even more of the band that we love. A dark, vibrant sequence of songs always pushing you forward. A lot like the Grimes album, this one also deals in themes of not letting others hold one back. It’s really neat how a few albums I loved this year are similar in theme. You just can’t stop these people.

THEEsatisfaction, EarthEE
Hitting celestial heights that I hadn’t experienced since Grimes. Celestial heights in the manner of Babylon 5 rather than Star Wars, let me say. What I enjoyed most about the album was its perfect nocturnal quality. Driving everywhere – a la Night Drive by Chromatics – with this as soundtrack is even better as it provides so much food for thought. A very political work in that way which I appreciated. It’s a very mysterious but immensely inviting album. The singing really sells that quality there. If you have the exciting mission of counting all the stars, this is the music you want to hear. And they’re also really great live.

Grimes, Art Angels
A bright, weird, and joyous celebration of not letting others hold you back. It’s almost like New Year’s again with each listening. It’s the opposite of Visions in many ways but it has that album’s same strengths just with less darkness. All the black and green and purple on Visions is replaced with tons of yellow, white, pink, and blue. It’s the first day of summer to the late autumn midnight of Visions. Like Tamaryn and Wax Idols, it’s a very interesting evolution and as with those two just as exciting to hear.

La Luz, Weirdo Shrine
Absolutely haunting. Much like an empty beach in the early morning. I love how the guitars and vocals each have their own layer of reverb which really pushes that haunting quality. The guitar playing is also the most assured and fluid that I heard all year. It’s really amazing. The sense of space in how the record was mixed was also something else.

Screaming Females, Rose Mountain
One of the most affirming records that I heard all year. If Marissa Paternoster were a doctor or a chef, I’d be amongst the healthiest, happiest people alive. I wish more indie rock could work at this level.

Dilly Dally, Sore
Loud, strong, hoarse, and blunt like a hammer. I loved every moment of it. Lead song Desire tells you everything you want to know then leaves you begging for more. I really love the style of this album. I’d utterly love it if they toured with Screaming Females.

Shannon and the Clams, Gone Before The Dawn
I’ve loved their other albums, but the lyrical focus on this one as it tied each song together really made it stand out from the previous albums. I love a good break-up album and this one doesn’t disappoint at all. It’s not bitter as much as it’s tired and disappointed which is rather true to life which I think anyone can appreciate. Their style is more soulful than dour which also helped.

Beach House, Thank Your Lucky Stars
I know, I know: who needs another Beach House album? Or even two the same year. But I really liked this one more than Depression Cherry. Edgier guitar, more focused writing, and better structure overall.
 

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